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Research Assignment Development

Creating Effective Library Assignments

The assignment should:

  • Be purposeful: An effective library assignment has a specific understood purpose, e.g. "by completing this assignment, students will achieve X learning objectives."
  • Be clear: A student who misunderstands an assignment will have difficulty completing it. Be sure to give out the assignment in writing rather than orally. It is a good idea to forward a copy of the assignment to the librarians so they are able to anticipate student's needs. Include all guidelines for types and number of sources required, page length, due date, preferred/required paper format (MVCC Libraries support APA, MLA, and Chicago), and appropriate topics. 
  • Be current: Library resources are constantly changing. Make sure your assignment is not out of date and uses the most current sources and research methods.
  • Be appropriate: Make sure your assignment can be completed by the students in a timely manner. Check with the library to make sure there are enough resources to support the assignment.
  • Embody critical thinking: Design the assignment so that students are able to use the information in a meaningful way. Having students analyze, evaluate, or comment on the information they find will help integrate information literacy skills into your course and makes students more apt to retain these skills.
  • Refer: Stress to students that there are professional librarians available at the library to help them retrieve the information they need.

Helpful reminders:

  • Use complete and accurate titles when referring to a source. Many databases and reference works have similar titles, and may change titles over time.
  • If you point an entire class to a very narrow range of resources, students will have problems accessing what they need (the library only has so many materials about any one topic). If you need many students to access the same resources, please arrange to have the materials put on Course Reserve.
  • Make sure the library (still) owns the resource(s) you want your students to use. The library regularly updates its holdings due to a number of considerations (currency, cost, or condition, e.g.) Please contact the library to discuss our available materials and request materials if necessary.
  • Don't assume your students know library research basics. Librarians are available to conduct a library tour, or to come to your class to teach research skills and techniques. 
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